Cancha y Chulpi, the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Snack

Image of a plate with cancha. (Whats4eats)

This snack right here is one that I have seen a lot when eating at Puervian resturants and when my dad’s aunt stayed with my family visiting from Ecuador. It’s called cancha in Peru and in Ecuador its named Chulpi. It’s a corn nut snack that is made with toasting or frying corn kernels which then creates this crunchy snack that can act like eating chips. When I have this snack, I love to drizzle it with Peruvian Ají sauce to give the nutty texture some spiciness. I also love just eating it to snack on because I can have a bunch with me and keep myself busy eating rather than looking for some potato chips to have a snack. It is a small food that my family has eaten for generations and it will be a snack that I pass on to my children. Who knew that a corn kernel can make for a different snack that isn’t popcorn!

Food Special Series: Ecuadorian Llapingachos

Image of a plate of Llapingachos. (The Spruce Eats)

I saved this post for last because growing up I never really had a lot of Ecuadorian-styled food. Granted, a lot of the foods that can be found in Ecuadorian restaurants are very similar to Peruvian restaurants since they are neighboring nations. However, there are some Ecuadorian dishes and meals that are prepared that I haven’t seen in Peruvian cuisine. This dish, los llapinagos, is a side that my dad’s aunt used to make frequently when she stayed with us some summers. It is essentially a seasoned potato patty that is stuffed with cheese and fried to create these tasty potato creations.

I haven’t had one of these in a very long time and up until me writing this post I didn’t even know what they were called. I used to call them “cheesy potatoes” because that was what it was, but after looking up what it was actually called I was immediately given the name, llapingachos.

Youtube video preparing and making llapingachos. (Made in CASA)

Because my dad’s aunt hasn’t been in New York to make these llapingachos, he has made them a few times because he — along with me and my brother — have craved for them because they taste so good. We like our llapingachos really cheesy so when we break the potato patty lots of cheese stretch out. In this Youtube video, she doesn’t show the inside of the patty, but I am certain that she added a lot of cheese too. I hope that with this post that this Ecuadorian dish was something new and interesting to see being made because they look just as good as they do tasting it.

Food Special Series: Puerto Rican Chicarron de Pollo

Image of Chicarron de Pollo (Keyingredient)

During the holidays, my grandpa likes to have family over his house so he can cook for all of us. He has made arroz con grandules, chivo, y pernil as main meals that would eat together. Sometimes he makes a salad to just so we can have as much food as we can on our plate. Every so often, however, my grandpa would make chicarron de pollo — Puerto Rican fried chicken — and I can attest to how eager my cousin, Armando, and I get when we see it. We immediately go after the chicarron de pollo and start biting into the crunchy and flavorful pieces of fried chicken.

What makes this food special to me is the fact that it is a “family food.” What do I mean by this? Well, when this food is prepared it is usually done whenever all of my family are together in one place. I don’t get to see my grandpa too often since he lives in New Jersey, but during the times that I do I look forward to when we can sit together and have dinner. A bowl filled with chicharron de pollo awaits is placed on the table alongside the other dishes that my grandpa made and everything disappears within minutes. I’m glad to say that I have grandparents that know how to cook and I can have these experiences with them in conjunction with food.

Youtube video showing how to make Puerto Rican style chicarron de pollo. (Crafting Cooking & Sazon)

Like the previous Food Special Series posts, I wanted to add a video that showed the process of making chicarron de pollo so that anyone reading this can make some at home to have a taste of Puerto Rican styled fried chicken. Watching this video made me wish I could visit my grandpa and have some homemade chicarron de pollo. I’m going to see if I can make some at home sometime because I know I’ve missed eating this food and its been too long since I’ve had it. If you decide to make it, don’t forget about squeezing some limón on top!

Food Special Series: Dominican Sopa de Pollo

Image of Dominican Sopa de Pollo (Chef Zee Cooks)

Staying with my grandma over long summers has made me grow immense love for homemade Dominican cooking. I can recall whenever my brother and I would be in our grandma’s room watching television or playing with our toys that her cooking would fill up the entire apartment. “¡Anthony y Seba, ven a comer!” would always be the call my Abue would say to us when lunch was ready.

Typically my grandma wouldn’t make soup over the summer only because of the heat outside, however, when there were times when my brother and I wouldn’t feel well she always prepared some Dominican sopa de pollo to help us feel better. The reason why I want to take the time to write about this simple soup is because of the personal attachment that I have with it. There were many times when I have been under the care of mi Abue that she would make sopa de pollo to help me through fevers and stomach aches. It is such a wholesome chicken soup that always works its magic to making me feel stronger and better when I felt weak and freezing. This soup holds such a fond memory of mi Abue and I feel that every time that I have this I think about her. It is amazing how powerful food can have on our memories.

Video of Chef Zee making Sopa de Pollo. (Chef Zee Cooks)

Though I haven’t had my grandma’s cooking recently, I hope that I can help her prepare this classic soup that has been a part of my upbringing. This video that I found on youtube looks very similar to how my grandma makes sopa de pollo, and I figured it was worth sharing so anyone reading this can see the many ingredients that go into making a hearty soup! Whenever you or a loved one is not feeling well, this soup will for sure help them feel better and tastes so delicious!

Food Special Series: Peruvian Ceviche

Image of a platter of ceviche. (Bits of Umami)

For these next few posts I wanted to take some time to highlight some foods that have impacted my life to the world of food and culture. As a person who is Dominican, Puerto Rican, Ecuadorian, and Peruvian there have been many foods that I have been exposed to respective with the nations that my family comes. It has made my food palate a very colorful and flavorful one and I thought that it would be refreshing to look at particular dishes that I grew up eating and loving. For this first post, in what I call it the “Food Special Series,” I am looking at a Peruvian dish that is well known and this is Peruvian Ceviche. Of course, there are many other cultures that have their own version of ceviche. Ceviche can be found in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, and even the Philippines which is amazing to see (Kudra). Despite the many places that ceviche has found a home in South American and Asian cooking, ceviche’s motherland home is Peru itself.

How to make Peruvian Ceviche. (Helen Rennie)

I haven’t had some homemade ceviche in a really long time and part of it is because once it is made you have to eat it then and there. If there is something that I can ssaay about this meal that I love it has to be the way the lime juice complements and “cooks” the raw fish. When I was younger I thought that the raw fish would not go well with me, but when I tried my grandma’s ceviche for the first time I fell in love and asked for more. What makes ceviche an interesting meal is due to the fact that it can be prepared in different ways. This speaks plenty to how many other cultures have adopted ceviche into their home cooking. In the video above, Helen Rennie is preparing a more simpler iteration of ceviche, but as she says in the video it can be prepared in various ways. This ceviche looks very similar to how my grandma has made it, and I think the reason as to why she hasn’t made it in awhile you have to be there to eat it once its been made. I think the next time that I see my grandma — hopefully soon given the current outbreak situation — so I can enjoy some homemade ceviche made with love.

Works Cited:

Kudra, Christine Szalay “Different Types of Ceviche.” Seasoned Cooking, seasoned.com/blog/2010/08/different-types-ceviche.

Inca Cola: My Favorite Soda

Growing up, it is hard to admit how much soda has affected my life from a kid to a young adult. Soda has always been around when I was feeding for a carbonated beverage and access to it is very easy; I remember always having Cola-Cola or Sierra Mist for the times that I was in a desire for soda where ever I went. However, despite the casual consumption of more American recognized soda brands, there is one kind of soda that I grew up with that I oftentimes would find at family gatherings. This soda is none other than the Peruvian drink, Inca Kola. This golden drink would contrast from the darker and clearer sodas that I would be on tables in family gatherings, and there was always more of the Inca Kola than other sodas because it was a family favorite. In Peru, my family grew up drinking this soda and it’s popularity matches that of Coca-Cola. Sometimes I would be in a mood for some of this soda but you have to go to particular supermarkets that carry Inca Kola. Where I go to get my Inca Kola is at Food Bazar and they have a whole section of an aisle dedicated to Inca Cola. If I had to choose a bottle of Coke and an Inca Kola I would choose my Peruvian soda hands down. Call me biased but I get more excited about Inca Kola than I do about Coca-Cola. Sometimes it really be like that. If those reading haven’t given Inca Kola a try I would definitely recommend it! It’s sweet but it pairs so well with any meal that you are having. Or if you want something carbonated with a sweet flavoring to it! You won’t regret having it.

Peruvian Ají Verde Sauce

If there is one thing that I always put on my food, it has to be a spicy sauce to accompany my meal. I love my spicy foods and whenever I can add some spiciness to my dish I will take that opportunity to drench everything with it! I decided to make a post that centered on a video of someone that prepares ají verde sauce with some noted additions to the recipe that did with my Mama. The ingredients for this video consists of the following: mayonnaise, lime juice, white vinegar, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and salt. When I have made this sauce, I added avocado and ají amarillo paste to give it a more creamier and spicier taste to it. All blended together and the sauce is ready to go! It is amazing to think that just like Mexican cuisine has different salsas, Peruvian cuisine also has its own spicy sauces to add to the foods too! Hopefully with this video, and with the suggested additions I added, it can inspire others to start making the sauce themselves!

Eating NAFTA: Great Things to Say

For my Taco Literacy class, the book that we have been reading lately as been Eating NAFTA by Alyshia Gálvez and the conversations that we’ve had with this book have just been amazing. Last week my class and I were able to speak to Gálvez herself and ask her questions that came to us when we read her work. One question that I asked Gálvez pertained to the notion of “organic” and what that term really means as smaller farmers in Mexico growing their own crops can technically be considered “organic.” One of her responses to the question came to the fact that many of those farmers not only are competing with larger industrialized farming from companies that are cheaper than their own corn, but also, these smaller farmers are also unable to purchase the license needed to be labeled as “organic.” It is insane to see just how political that it can get when looking at the farming conditions that Mexican growers encounter. My peers also had great questions to ask about the NAFTA “agreement” to Professor Gálvez and I was just left with more insight in the sphere of policies related to Mexico, and the unfortunate consequences that come with those policies.

This book as been one that I started recommending for others to read because I grew up thinking that the NAFTA agreement was actually a good thing. Three countries united to allow trades and goods permeate borders doesn’t sound like a bad idea. However, in Gálvez’s book she unpacks the negative aspects of the NAFTA agreement and leaves readers questioning the policies set in place that the citizens of Mexico have to endure. I can’t wait to continue reading to learn more and spread the knowledge of Eating NAFTA to others. I feel that many people should have awareness of what large American companies are doing to the “little guy” and how bad the health crisis is in Mexico.

The Tacos of Mexico City

In this Youtube video, this Youtuber goes around Mexico City to try what his friend Lalo to try the best tacos in Mexico City. Lately, I have been feeding for some tacos and watching this video made my stomach growl a lot! Just watching these tacos being prepared and served and the juices dropping from the taco just makes me wish I could have some for myself. These kinds of videos always has me hooked because who doesn’t love watching food videos! I didn’t know the variety of tacos that can be made and it just left me thinking creatively as to what I would like to have in a taco. I think that I will get some tortillas and make some homemade tacos and share them with my friends on Instagram. Hopefully I can make a posting soon on it but I am looking forward for some tacos! This is more of a casual posting, but I always love sharing and giving some feedback I’ve had when watching this video. Definitely worth watching!

Applebee’s Tex Taco Salad Impressions and Analysis

On my Instagram page, I made a post looking at something that I and my Mama came across when eating at an Applebee’s a couple of weeks ago. On the menu, there was a new kind of salad that Applebee’s customers would be able to eat while they dine there. They called it the Big Tex Taco Salad and I would be wrong to say that I didn’t think it looked good. I see guacamole (though mine will always be better) tomatoes, cilantro, beans, and corn. It looked colorful and I am certain that was the purpose to try and intrigue customers to getting it. Not to mention the large edible bowl that it comes with. At first glance, it caught our attention and naturally the next thing we did was look at the food description for the salad bowl.

I remember reading this description and being a little impressed because of all the ingredients that were in the salad. Some of the more questionable things that I found in the description didn’t make me question it at first. I guess my initial hunger at the moment prevented me from making a more critical analysis of the language used on the menu. But that is what a post like this is for! My Mama decided to order it to try it out and I order a burger with fries. When the Taco Salad came we were both shocked at the size of it.

The taco salad rested in the innermost part of the plate; in other words, it was huge! The towering ingredients looked as colorful as the picture shown on the menu. My Mama wanted the Chipotle Lime Chicken so that too was also sprinkled on the top of the salad and made it even more appetizing. From the few bites that I had it did taste good. There were a lot of flavors going on that was pleasing to my tastebuds. However, now looking at the menu and the meal with a more critical lens I can offer some more feedback and analysis on this meal at Applebee’s.

I notice the language that was used in the menu description had some phrases that caught my attention; such included: “freshly-made tortilla bowl,” “house-made,” and “taco-seasoned.” To me these felt like trigger phrases for customers to become intrigued with the meal that they can have, but despite having familiar ingredients to Mexican cuisine it is most certainly still Americanized. I remember having discussions with my classmates about how certain restaurants and chains appropriate Mexican food to create this experience for the consumer. In this case, it definitely felt like a sort-of “experience” with this familiar, yet also unfamiliar, dish at Applebee’s.

The tortilla bowl that cupped the ingredients together didn’t taste “fresh” in my opinion nor did it look like how more traditional tortillas would appear as. The bowl-like appearance looked like an enlarged tostito scoop chip which adds to that thought of selling an experience that has ingredients you can find in Mexican food, but isn’t Mexican at all. The use of the term “house-made” also is complicated because with this phrase it implies a more intimate and more “homemade” practice that is done with food. However, this is a food chain and there is nothing really “homemade” in nature that these chains are providing. The pico de gallo and guacamole served with the meal was good, but slapping on “home-made” just seems like a marketing term to get people to eat it. Lastly, there is the “taco-seasoned ground beef.” I think I recall asking my Mama what did that even mean and she wasn’t so sure herself. It’s obviously not actually seasoned with tacos al pastor or any other taco creation that would put this bowl to shame, but the phrasing also just pointed to being another marketing and “eye grabbing” term to get people invested in ordering it.

Exploring this dish that Applebee’s offered allowed me to take a step into the Taco Literacy analysis on something that I wouldn’t typically do when I’m eating outside. I usually don’t criticize the food that I eat based of the language and the kind of food they are selling, but now I’ve grown accustomed to questioning and being more aware of the marketing that these chains do. It’s amazing what language can do, and here, language had its way of bringing up complications that I wanted to touch upon. Because if I can become aware of the marketing tricks of larger businesses then I can help others become more informed too. Does this post mean that I won’t go to Applebee’s again? Of course not! But it’s always great to resist and notice these subtleties that usually go unnoticed. However, I’ll stick to eating actual homemade Mexican food if I’m feeding for those “bold flavors” that Applebee’s speaks of.

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